Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's profile page, circa 2007. A lot has changed since then.(Photo: MARKHAM JOHNSON AFP/Getty Images)
At a time when jobs are hard to come by and it's easy to dig up
information that might embarrass a job candidate, some college career
centers are offering tips and tools to help students put their best
digital footprint forward.
Villanova University near Philadelphia offers students a one-credit course on managing their online identity.
Southern Methodist University in Dallas and the University of
California-Santa Barbara addressed the issue in similar workshops this
Career centers at Syracuse (N.Y.) University and Johns
Hopkins University in Baltimore are offering students at no charge a
Web tool, called BrandYourself.com, to help them tidy up their virtual
"They are creating a brand and image, whether they
realize it or not," says Ohio State University marketing instructor
Philosophies vary among employers about whether to
check into the virtual lives of applicants. A 2009 survey by Cross-Tab
Marketing Services found that 70% of 275 U.S. recruiters said they have
rejected candidates based on information they found online. In a survey
this year of about 2,300 hiring managers by CareerBuilder - an
employment and training company owned by Gannett, which owns USA TODAY -
37% said they look at applicants' social-networking sites. Of those,
12% said they were looking for reasons not to hire the person and 34%
said they found information that caused them not to hire a candidate.
Rent-A-Car, which expects to hire 8,500 new college graduates in
2012-13, recommends that recruiters not conduct online searches
involving entry-level positions. "We would prefer to stick to the things
that are tried and true and verifiable vs. just a Web search that could
bring back anything," says Vice President Marie Artim.
advisers say they focus on helping students and alumni build a
professional presence on social-media sites. "It helps you stand out
from the crowd," says Torrey Trust, a graduate student at UC-Santa
Barbara who co-leads a workshop on how to build a digital reputation.
Arndell, 24, a 2011 graduate of UC-Santa Barbara, says Trust's workshop
was an eye-opener. When she first Googled herself, the search turned up
"really old stuff on there from ninth grade," she says. Using a free
version of BrandYourself.com, she boosted her visibility by creating
positive, up-to-date content that pushed outdated information further
down when search engines look for her name. Now, for instance, a Google
search highlights Arndell's service last year as an AmeriCorps
When it's time to look for a job, she says, "I'm going to be easy to find. People are going to know who I am, what I'm about."